When I was a child (many, many moons ago) Christmas was a time of great anticipation, excitement and joy. It was a time to laugh and play and relax. I look back on those Christmases with very fond memories. They are memories I can call to mind easily, without the aid of photographs or songs or smells, they are strong and good, forged out of the best of times.
Religion didn't really come into the Christmas of my childhood beyond the school nativity play and occasional carol concert, my parents weren't church goers, but thankfulness and thinking of others was big. Our Christmas was fun but there were rules, strict ones, but ones we never minded keeping. Somehow they were just all a part of it and it just wouldn't have been right, it wouldn't have been Christmas, without them.
Not going hunting for our Christmas presents was a big one, it would be wrong to spoil the surprise and to this day I'd rather poke my eyes out than peek at something before it's wrapped. Not going downstairs before Mum and Dad were up was another. We had a stocking, and a sack left by Santa, in our rooms but our main present was always under the tree, sometimes we'd be almost exploding with excitement but that rule at least gave my parents a fighting chance of getting up at a decent hour. The next big rule was not going outside to play too early. This was torture if Santa had delivered a longed for bike or roller skates, but respect for the neighbours who may still be abed was drummed into us. But the main rule, the BIG ONE, was saying thank you without having to be prompted.
Christmas afternoon, straight after lunch, my brother and I would ring around all those relatives we were not seeing that day to thank them for their gifts. This was always, and I do mean always followed up with a thank you letter. It would have been unforgivable to not take the time to write to everyone, regardless of whether we had seen them, or spoken on the phone, to tell them how much we had enjoyed our new toy. More often than not someone would have bought me a pretty stationary set for Christmas anyway, so sitting down to write would be a pleasure. It was always what we did on Boxing Day, when the excitement had started to wear off and we needed to be kept away from the chocolate and out from under mum's feet, we'd sit down at the table to write our thank yous and then go for a walk to the park and drop them into the post box on the way. It was a ritual, a routine, a rule. And it was a good one.
Sadly, it seems it's one no one keeps to any more. In this day and age of instant messaging, of mobile phones and internet, when communication is simpler, faster, than ever before... No one bothers to say thank you.
Does it really take so much? Are people really so busy that they can't take a moment to send a text? A few did manage to message to say 'Merry Christmas' but no 'Thanks for the prezzie' or 'loved the gift, ta!'
I wonder what they'd all say if I didn't bother giving anything next year?
Well, they may not be thankful but I am.
I am thankful I am sitting here, warm and cosy. I have a nice glass of port, there's plenty of food in my kitchen cupboards, and a box of chocolates within reach. There are twinkly lights around my fireplace and candles burning, I'm sleepy and very soon I shall be going to bed, and tomorrow will be another day. Yes, I'm very thankful indeed.